The Pathways from Crime report (which is currently under review) identified ten points in the criminal justice process for delivering a more rigorous and effective approach to young adults and young people. The infographic below illustrates these 10 points. Each number gives you an explanation in a separate window about the nature of that intervention.
Policing and arrest
Recommendation: The police should receive specific training for managing contact with young adults, particularly in relation to stop and search and, where possible, should seek to divert young adults into appropriate services away from the criminal justice process.
Young adults are disproportionately likely to come into contact with the police and an arrest and criminal record can have a very detrimental impact on a young person’s future, particularly employment. Conditional cautions and restorative justice interventions can be an appropriate alternative to an arrest in many circumstances.
Recommendation: Drug, alcohol and mental health services should support young adults in the criminal justice process and have arrangements in place for managing the transition between child and adult services. Appropriate young adult diversion services should be commissioned in partnership with the police.
Many young adult offenders have particular needs in relation to alcohol, drug and mental health problems, and a poor transition between services at 18 can increase offending behaviour. Diversion into appropriate treatment can take place throughout the criminal justice process.
Recommendation: Restorative justice should be considered for all young adult offenders at all stages of the criminal justice process, including pre-arrest, pre-sentence, and as part of a sentence.
Restorative justice has a solid research base showing high levels of victim satisfaction and a good impact on reducing reoffending. Restorative justice can be as effective an intervention for young adult offenders as it is for those who are under 18.
Recommendation: As part of the decision-making process on arrest, charge and prosecution, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service should consider the ‘lack of maturity’ of a young adult offender, alongside current considerations of ‘youthfulness’, among the factors tending against prosecution, in line with similar considerations by probation and sentencers later in the process.
The CPS must use the public interest test when deciding to charge an offender following an arrest and has the opportunity to work with the police and the probation service to discontinue a prosecution at any time where appropriate.
Recommendation: More should be done centrally and at a local level to develop the approach to identifying and responding to varying developmental maturity of young adults in the criminal justice process. Criminal justice professionals should support the sentencing process by ensuring that lack of maturity is identified. Pre-sentence reports by the probation service should consider the maturity of all young adult offenders, and clearly recommend and advocate to the court an effective response and, where appropriate, a robust community-based intervention.
The concept of maturity has been found in a criminal justice context in Britain for more than a century, and there are a number of international examples of how young adults’ maturity can be taken into account. Considering the maturity of a young adult offender in the sentencing process is supported by research, by the public and by MPs. Since 2011, ‘lack of maturity’ has been a mitigating factor in the Sentencing Guidelines for adult offenders, across a range of offences.
Recommendation: The few existing examples of young adult specific community interventions that exist across the country should be replicated nationally, and similar effective interventions should be available to all sentencers when sentencing a young adult. More should be done to develop the scope of the Attendance Centre requirement, as well as tailoring other available community sentence options to the specific needs of young adults.
Young adults represent a third of the probation service’s caseload, and have one of the highest rates of reoffending, so should be seen as a priority. Only one community sentence requirement is specifically for young adults (the Attendance Centre requirement), and it is rarely used.
Managing the transfer process
Recommendation: All Youth Offending Services and Probation Trusts should develop arrangements to manage the transfer process to ensure that young adults receive the support they need to comply with their sentence or licence.
Despite strong evidence that the transition to adulthood is a process, not a moment in time, criminal justice agencies abruptly change their response to young offenders the moment they turn 18. The case transfer process between Youth Offending Services and adult probation is crucial, but is often poorly managed, which can exacerbate offending.
Recommendation: Recommendation: Lessons should be learned by the young adult YOI estate from the reduction in numbers of children in custody, which has enabled some degree of justice reinvestment from acute services to prevention. Every effort should be made to keep non-violent young adults out of custody, particularly remand, and enable the courts to issue an intensive community sentence. Specific attention should be given to young adult women who require a distinct approach, and to the over-representation of black and ethnic minority young adult prisoners.
Young adults represent a third of those sent to prison each year. The majority are held on remand or are serving short custodial sentences, which have been shown to be particularly ineffective at reducing offending. Young adult men serving longer prison sentences are normally held in Youth Offending Institutions, but report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons have shown that they are much less effective than they could be. There is no specific provision for young adult women, who are disproportionately likely to receive a short sentence.
Recommendation: All prisons should have resettlement plans in place for every young adult at least three months prior to their release and a ‘through the gate’ service should be provided to every young adult in custody.
Most reoffending by young adults on release from prison occurs in the first three months, but prison services are rarely able to make the necessary resettlement arrangements for a young adult leaving custody. ‘Through the gate’ peer-mentoring services have been shown to be effective for ensuring continuity of support from prison to community, and for preventing relapse into offending behaviour.
Enabling desistance from crime
Recommendation: A young adult specific approach (with a focus on securing stable accommodation and long-term employment) should be implemented throughout criminal justice service design, commissioning and delivery to ensure that young adults coming out of the criminal justice process are supported to stop offending.
Stable accommodation, long-term employment, good health and good relationships are all required to enable desistance. Employers are willing to give jobs to young adults with criminal convictions, but need political leadership to promote good practice and highlight success stories. Stable accommodation and family support are vital, particularly to prevent the inter-generational cycle of offending.